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Environmental Impact of the NC Timber Industry


The editorial on August 21st dealt with sustainability and specifically the fallacy of burning wood chips to generate electricity.  Further to the information provided in this posting, a subsequent report by the Center for a Sustainable Economy characterizes the North Carolina timber industry as a “climate catastrophe”.  Approximately 5 percent of North Carolina covering 2.6 million acres is a carbon sequestration dead zone.  This is due to clear cutting and removal of timber for wood chip production and for sawmills in the state.  If plantations are harvested it takes approximately 13 years to begin offsetting atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.  Pine plantations store less carbon than native forest currently dominated by hardwoods in North Carolina.

Findings by the Center for a Sustainable Economy concerning release of carbon dioxide by the logging industry are paralleled in Oregon.  In that state logging is the most carbon-intensive sector.  In North Carolina electric generation and transportation are more carbon intensive.

The Center for a Sustainable Economy advocates application of acceptable forestry practices as an alternative to clear cutting including restoration and a lower intensity of logging.  Unfortunately the economic impact of the timber industry and its political clout mitigate against any meaningful improvement in the intermediate future.